Sick Around the World

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Sick Around the World
If your latest battle with your health insurance has you pounding your head with frustration, “Sick Around the World” on PBS may spur you to more drastic action, like leaving the United States altogether. In this “Frontline”, the Washington Post reporter T. R. Reid travels to five countries Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland that manage to provide some form of universal health coverage to their populations. In each nation, he reports, insurance premiums are significantly lower than those in America (in Britain there are none), and the waiting time to see a doctor is either tolerable (in Britain) or nonexistent. In “Sick Around the World”, he made the most important point: the root problem with health care is the rate that costs are increasing. Under the present system, there are no incentives to control costs. As costs go up, insurance premiums go up and individuals and employers can't afford insurance. This fast-moving and entertaining hour starts from the premise that the American health care system, with its high costs, multiple gatekeepers and failure to provide insurance for much of the population, is a failure. Mr. Reid makes the case (in about 10 minutes per country) that other capitalist democracies have not just cheaper and more equally available health care, but also better care over all, with longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates. One area “Sick Around the World” doesn’t explore is the one that probably makes many Americans well above the poverty line. However, most nervous about the idea of medical regulation: the availability of the kind of heroic, expensive care we expect when our hearts fail, or cancer strikes.
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